Kate has found the transition to secondary school difficult. She has additional learning needs and a language development disorder, finds it hard to make friends, has low self-esteem and will often become tearful at the first sign of a challenge. Her teachers hope that the Youth Adventure Programme will help to build her resilience.
When she came to her Explore Day back in June, Kate was exceptionally anxious. She cried a lot and didn’t really engage with the activities – but she successfully completed the day thanks to the support of her Programme Manager, Rob. He could see just how much the programme would benefit Kate with the support she needed to fully engage with it. However, just before she was due to go on Mountain Camp, Kate’s mum texted Rob to say she had decided not to attend – she was just too anxious.
Rob spoke to Kate and her mum and managed to persuade her to take just the first step and come to the pick-up point for the journey to camp; she could see how she felt about getting on the coach once she was there. Rob arranged for Kate to arrive early so she could get on the coach before the other young people, which he felt would be less intimidating for her. Unfortunately when Kate saw the coach, she got even more anxious and refused to get on. With lots of encouragement and support from Rob, she eventually got on the coach and sat next to another member of Youth Adventure Trust staff, who kept her distracted by chatting and playing games during the journey to the Brecon Beacons.
Rob was in regular contact with her mum throughout camp, who was almost as anxious about Kate being away as she was herself. Kate found being at camp daunting, she was sad at times and carried her teddy around for comfort. She was given lots of support and encouragement from Rob and the wider Youth Adventure Trust team. Rob helped her to break her worries and the experience down into smaller steps, and encouraged her to take one small thing at a time, rather than being overwhelmed by the bigger picture. The first step was to make it through to dinner time, then to make it through the evening activity, then make it through the night to the next day.
Kate did really well to make it through the first night of camp but the next day she felt that she wanted to go home as it was all still feeling very daunting. Rob and Kate talked about her options, and in the end Kate felt able to stay one more night. Rob kept in touch with Kate’s mum, who agreed this was a good approach to help Kate overcome some of her anxieties. Rob promised Kate that he would call her mum to collect her and take her home the next day if she able to stay another night, and talked about how proud she could be of her achievements. That day, Kate and her team hiked up into the hills to stay overnight away from the main camp. This was an amazing achievement for Kate, who found that she actually enjoyed looking out over the landscape, watching the sunset and looking at the stars without the pressure of thinking she would have to stay three more nights.
As agreed, Kate’s mum came to collect her the next day; she was so proud of herself and the fact that she had spent two nights away from home. On her return home Kate realised she had left her beloved teddy up on the hill where they had stayed, and was surprised that she hadn’t actually noticed until that point, as she usually kept it so close. Rob arranged for a search party to find it and he sent a photo of the safely recovered teddy to Kate. At the end of the camp Kate and her mum came to the drop off point to collect it, and to say hello to her team mates again. She’s looking forward to continuing to build these friendships at the next part of her Youth Adventure Programme, a series of activity days over the winter.
This experience really helped build the trust between the Youth Adventure Trust, Kate and her mum, which was absolutely crucial for Kate to be able to continue her journey with us. It has shown that we can help Kate push herself out of her comfort zone but also that she can approach all challenges by choice. Being the first camp, Mountain Camp really sets the foundations for the rest of the programme, and Kate has already learnt that she is capable of more than she ever thought possible. We’re looking forward to seeing all she will achieve and her resilience grow further over the coming years.